New Orleans Saints training camp kicked off last week, and there’s a ton to be learned from the first serious football activities of the year.
Teams aren’t installing playbooks or trying guys out at different positions. Most injury rehab programs have run their course and changes in playing-weight are settled.
It’s time to build on-field chemistry and adapt to having new teammates around them. The Saints’ new additions at safety have taken to the task with gusto.
Safety is one of the few positions that’s already locked in for final roster cuts. Last year’s starters, Kenny Vaccaro and Jairus Byrd, are returning and are joined by a familiar face in Roman Harper. But it’s the newest members of the group are making the most noise.
Erik Harris brings a great combination of range and length. He’s tall and long-limbed, but moves from one sideline to the other like his hair’s on fire. Harris has laid some big hits and gotten his hands on a number of passes, though he has yet to bag an interception.
Harris exited Saturday’s practice with an injury, but it’s not feared to be anything worse than a pulled hamstring. A few days of light work and hydration should be enough to get the Canadian Football League import back to top form.
Vonn Bell, one of two second round draft picks out of Ohio State University, started training camp off with a bang by intercepting Drew Brees on the first day of practice. Bell reeled in nine interceptions and fifteen pass deflections in two years as a starter for the Buckeyes, so his early game-changing play should come as no surprise. What will be interesting to see is whether Bell can be a reliable tackler in the open field.
Physicality hasn’t been a problem for Kenny Vaccaro. He’s returned to the roving attack role he thrived in during his rookie season, and is poised to break out in a big way during what is essentially a contract year. Vaccaro has frequently been sent in on blitzes to knife through gaps, pressuring quarterbacks and dropping running backs for loss of yards.
In one big moment during Saturday’s first padded practice, Vaccaro laid a thundering hit on rookie fullback Sione Houma (Michigan) that reportedly dented the lead blocker’s helmet.
Roman Harper produced 255 tackles, 13.5 sacks, and 13 forced fumbles over three years in the defense Dennis Allen is running now. Vaccaro is starting in Harper’s role now and picked up 73 tackles, three sacks, and a forced fumble last year. Expectations are high for the 25-year old safety.
Stay tuned for more updates from New Orleans Saints training camp.